What is Student Loan Exit Counseling?

When you take out federal student loans, you are required to start paying them back through monthly payments, starting a few months after you graduate (if not sooner). For most student loan borrowers, the process of paying back their loans can be even more baffling than the process of applying for loans. What are the next steps? What are your repayment options? How do you know which is the best option for you? All of these questions are answered through student loan exit counseling.

A white sign with text that says "exit" with an arrow pointing left.

What is Exit Counseling?

When you took out your loan, you went through entrance counseling. This is similar, but exit counseling is focused on repaying your loans. Exit counseling covers everything you need to know about your rights, responsibilities, and repayment options when it comes to student loans. It should also cover any questions you have about repaying your loans. When you have completed your exit counseling, you should have all the information you need to handle your student loan debt.

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Student Loan Exit Counseling Options

Exit counseling is mandatory for all federal student loan borrowers. You must complete this step when you graduate from college, drop out of college, or drop below half-time enrollment.

All students can complete the exit counseling process online by simply signing into their StudentLoans.gov account. Some colleges also offer in-person sessions, which may be one-on-one or conducted in a group setting. If you have specific questions about your student loans, in-person exit counseling sessions may be a better option for you. Your college may even provide you with more detailed information on how to complete your exit counseling online.

Other Things You Need to Know

During your exit counseling session, whether online or in-person, pay special attention to information about the different types of loans that you have, your repayment options, how to avoid default, and advice regarding financial planning. Make sure you have a clear picture of what your loan is, the terms and conditions, and the repayment plan that works best for you. With federal loans, you have a few repayment plan options, which means that you can choose which plan is best for your financial situation. Exit counseling makes sure that you know what to do while repaying your loans. The goal is to make sure you pay your loans back without defaulting or being completely unable to do so.

Keep in mind, if none of the repayment plans are working for you, or you later find out that the plan you picked isn’t a good fit for you anymore, you can consider refinancing or consolidating your loans instead. You may be able to change the length of your loan or interest rates this way.

Last but not least, make sure to update your contact information so you do not miss any notifications that your loan lender sends you.

If federal student loans don’t cover your entire college cost, you’ll need to find a good-fitting private option. Use College Raptor’s free Student Loan Finder to compare lenders and interest rates side by side.


Lender Rates (APR) Eligibility
Earnest company logo.
Variable APR: 1.88% - 5.64%*
Fixed APR: 2.44% - 5.79%*
Undergraduate and Graduate
Lendkey company logo.
Variable APR: 1.90% - 5.25%*
Fixed APR: 2.49% - 7.75%*
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
Credible company logo.
Variable APR: 1.80% - 9.99%*
Fixed APR: 2.15% - 9.99%*
Undergraduate and Graduate
Laurel road company logo.
Variable APR: 1.64% - 5.65%*
Fixed APR: 2.25% - 5.75%*
Undergraduate and Graduate
Commonbond company logo.
Variable APR: 1.96% - 7.02%*
Fixed APR: 2.59% - 6.94%*
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
Fixed APR: 2.44% - 5.97%*
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
VISIT ISL Education Lending
Variable APR: 1.87% – 5.33%**
Fixed APR: 2.30% – 5.96%**
Undergraduate, Graduate, Parent PLUS
VISIT Nelnet
Variable APR: 2.94% - 4.84%*
Fixed APR: 2.99% - 4.94%*
Undergraduate and Graduate
VISIT College Ave
Variable APR: 1.86% - 6.01%*
Fixed APR: 2.47% - 5.99%*
Undergraduate and Graduate, Parent PLUS

*APR includes a 0.25% interest rate reduction for enrollment in automatic payments.

**Interest rate reduction of .25% for automatically withdrawn payments from any designated bank account (“auto debit discount”). Auto debit discount applies when full payments (including both principal and interest) are automatically drafted from a bank account. The auto debit discount will continue to apply during periods of approved forbearance or deferment if the auto debit discount was in effect at the time of receiving the forbearance or deferment. Auto debit discount will remain on the account unless (1) the automatic deduction of payments is canceled or (2) there are three consecutive automatic deductions returned for insufficient funds at any time during the term of the loan.

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